With President Barack Obama announcing America will start normalizing relations with the communist country of Cuba, even conservative Republicans are split on the issue. Some, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) with his personal family story of escaping Cuba, is staunchly opposed to lifting the decades-old embargo. But Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) believes that open trade and free markets bring Democracy, which is something the people of Cuba need desperately.
Watch (above) a side of Cuba you’ve probably never heard of… The Cuban heavy metal scene! It is the trailer for an upcoming documentary from the libertarian Moving Picture Institute “Hard Rock Havana.” Might it be that cigars won’t be the only thing that Cuba will start exporting to America?
The documentary’s director, Nicholas Brennan, shared his personal story exclusively with Headline Politics:
As the news settled in of President Obama’s big Cuba detente, I met up with an old friend of mine, Adrian Fernandez.
He’s a talented photographer from Havana currently in New York on a teaching fellowship. I’d first met Adrian nearly six-years ago while watching Obama deliver his inaugural address.
It was 2009 and I was a fresh-faced 20-year-old who’d just arrived in Havana on my first trip to Cuba. Adrian was an aspiring young photographer with a keen-eye and an ambition to make a big mark with his work. We hit it off.
Only the international satellite channels carried the speech live, so we had gathered with a dozen or so Cuban and American students in a room at the Hotel Riviera, a shabby mafia-era hotel overlooking Havana’s northern shore.
As the former President and First Lady Bush embraced the new First Couple and began a lonely walk to a helicopter whisking them out of the capital, I remember how beautifully peaceful the moment seemed—the control of the country handed from one party to the next with a warm hug. It was a stunning image seen in a place led for 50 years by the same man.
After Obama finished his speech, Adrian stood looking quietly out the window. I walked up to him and we stood together silently for a moment. We hadn’t met each other yet and I looked for the right words to say. I mumbled some silly obvious question like “what did you think of the speech?” He turned to me and said, “Just end the blockade.”
Over the next three months, I spent every day with Adrian and our other Cuban partners as part of a documentary film program with NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
It was a rare opportunity for top young Cuban and American filmmakers to work side by side on independent projects. Over the course of the program, we produced more than 45 films together, each a powerful exploration of life in today’s Cuba.
This collaboration—this ability for direct people-to-people interaction opened up not only our eyes to the difficulties and harsh reality of life in Cuba, it also exposed the Cuban artists to a new way of thinking about and seeing their own country.
Six years later, Adrian and I walked through the streets of New York together. It’s been a busy past few years as both of our lives have been consumed by the work we began together in Havana.
I asked him the same question I’d asked so many years before, “What’d you think of the speech?”
This time his answer was different. “Something has to change,” he told me. As the American embargo comes to its long-awaited end, much-needed positive change inside of Cuba has to follow.
These changes will be driven not by belligerent partisans in politics and the media, but instead by mutually respectful friendships like the one I am grateful to have with Adrian.
This afternoon Adrian boarded a plane back to Havana. He has a busy winter ahead preparing for the upcoming Biennale and the spring gallery season. He returns to Cuba with bags loaded with new photo equipment and a determination to continue using his skills to make his country a better place.
Would you travel to Cuba if given the opportunity? Please leave us a comment and tell us what you think.